Scarce Skills: Defining 'scarce' and 'critical' skills

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The Minister of Labour has outlined the Department's thinking on skill shortages. He explained during a speech that he wanted to, "demystify some of the myths," around skills shortages.

Scarce and Critical skills are defined as "an absolute or relative demand: current or in future; for skilled; qualified and experienced people to fill particular roles / professions, occupations or specialisations in the labour market.

Both occupation and qualification are chosen as both have the merit of being relatively straightforward to measure and readily understood.

Critical skills refers to particular capabilities needed within an occupation, for example, general management skills, communication and customer handling skills, teamwork skills, and communication technology skills.

There is also a distinction between absolute and relative scarcity of skills.

Absolute scarcity refers to suitably skilled people who are not available in the labour market and may include new or emerging occupation, lack of suitably qualified people or insufficient numbers of people enrolled in programmes to meet the new demands.

Relative scarcity refers to suitably skilled people available in the labour market but who may not necessarily have a high level of work experience, may not be located within a specific geographical location and equity considerations.

According to the Minister of Labour It is within the context of these definitions that we can as a country begin to develop appropriate strategies to deal with specific problems. Importation of skills is a temporary measure. It may sound attractive but is not sustainable in the long term.

National Master Scarce Skills list

There is a National Master Scarce Skills List for South Africa and annually we conduct an up-load process and we also publish an Annual State of Skills publication and both publications are also available on our website.

The list is aimed at providing a comprehensive account of the skills that lie at the heart of the "binding constraint" on economic growth and development, in other words, the skills that are most needed in our country and on which we need to focus our efforts on acquiring and developing.

The National Master Scarce Skills List brings together a number of labour market demand side identification processes and represents a growing coherence across government and economic sector actors in identifying and forecasting skills demand.

The Department of Labour draws relevant data from Seta Sector Skills Plans, from various government departments and complement the information with commissioned sectoral research studies to draw up the list.

The Department of Home Affairs uses this list to develop the current Work Permit Quota List that they publish annually. The scarce skills information and mechanisms for identifying scarcity have been improved through the experience and lessons learnt during the development of the first list.

The list was adopted by the Accelerated Shared Growth in South Africa's Joint Initiative on Priority Skills Acquisition as the AsgiSA Master Skills list. The Minister of Labour has committed to continually improving this process to ensure that the scarce skills signalling processes and data are substantively updated, reliable and serve their sectoral and national purposes.

The Department of Labour will also follow the international debates and trends regarding skills projections or focusing models. They are also trying to align SA skills development interventions with the National Industrial Policy Framework, Provincial Growth and Development Strategies, Local Economic Development Plans in order to maximise placement opportunities for graduates of skills programmes.

Download the Scarce Skills List in Word format

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